The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to produce PTI Chairman Imran Khan within an hour.
The court issued the directives as a three-member Supreme Court (SC) bench, comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Athar Minallah, heard PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s plea against his arrest in the Al-Qadir Trust case.
At the outset of the hearing, one of Imran’s counsels, Hamid Khan, appeared on the rostrum and informed the apex court that his client had approached the Islamabad High Court (IHC) for pre-arrest bail.
His lawyer said that Imran was in the process of getting his biometrics done when he was arrested. “Rangers misbehaved with Imran Khan and arrested him,” the lawyer said.
CJP Bandial observed that court records showed that the case had not been fixed for hearing. The lawyer told the court that the appeal could not be filed without completing the biometric process.
Here, Justice Minallah observed that Imran had indeed entered court premises. “How can anyone be denied the right to justice?” he asked.
CJP Bandial said that there was a certain “respect” for the courts. Recalling a past incident, he said, “NAB had arrested a suspect from the Supreme Court’s parking [lot]. The court had then reversed the arrest.”
The CJP asked Imran’s counsel about the number of Rangers personnel who had carried out the arrest of the former premier. Imran’s lawyer responded that “100 rangers personnel entered court premises” in order to arrest the PTI chief.
“What dignity remains of the court if 90 people entered its premises? How can any individual be arrested from court premises?” he asked.
“In the past, action has been taken against lawyers for vandalism inside the court,” he observed. “If an individual has surrendered to the court, then what does arresting them mean?”
He further said that NAB had committed “contempt of court”. “They should have taken permission from the court’s registrar before the arrest. Court staffers were also subjected to abuse,” he added.
CJP Bandial emphasised that courts should be accessible to everyone for relief and that individuals should feel safe to approach the courts.
Imran’s lawyer then demanded that his client be released from NAB custody, stating that the arrest was made without an investigation officer present.
The chief justice noted that the court was currently examining the manner in which the arrest was conducted and whether contempt had taken place.
Imran’s lawyer then said that the PTI chief was on terrorists’ “radar”. Only after the arrest was made did it emerge that the warrant was issued on May 1, he said.
Imran’s other lawyer, Advocate Salman Akram Raja, told the court that the interior ministry’s secretary had said he had not yet received the warrants for their execution.
At this point, the CJP said that whatever had happened after Imran’s arrest should have stopped.
“This does not mean that we shut our eyes to an illegal action. Such a verdict should be given that applies to all. Access to justice is the right of every accused,” he said.
Imran’s lawyer Hamid said that if that the party would not have approached the SC if the PTI chief had been arrested from outside his home or outside the court.
Here, Justice Mazhar asked if Imran had responded to the NAB notice, to which the lawyer replied in the affirmative.
“According to the law, an arrest cannot be made when an inquiry is still being carried out,” Hamid said.
On Wednesday, an accountability court in Islamabad had handed Imran over to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for eight days in connection with the Al-Qadir Trust case.
Subsequently, he had approached the apex court to set aside the warrants issued by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman on May 1 for his arrest and to challenge the Islamabad High Court’s decision to declare the arrest “unlawful”.